Drawing similarities from Bhagvat Mela, Kuchipudi originated in the Kuchipudi district of Andhra Pradesh. The earliest mention of this dance is found in the 10th century, in the form of copper inscriptions, but it only developed in the 13th century.
The dance was evolving a lot by the 16th century and was patronaged by the royal Hindu courts, but due to the Islamic invasions, it was about to go extinct by the 17th century. Many families of Kuchipudi performers fled to Tamil Nadu to seek refuge, and that is how it also spread in that state. Further British invasion too hindered the development of this dance. It was not until the early 20th century that it saw a revolution.
The style of dance is very similar to that of Bharatnatyam, only Kuchipudi has more fluid movements.
It is originally a group dance, which was performed in the temples at night. Angikaabhinaya and Vachikabhinaya are of central importance. It draws basic elements from Natyashastra and Abhinayadarpanam. The repertoire begins with an invocatory piece, usually a prayer to any Hindu God. A thing which is peculiar only to Kuchipudi is Kavutvams and Tharangams where the dancer balances an earthen pot on her head and performs rigorous footwork. Drawing with the toes while dancing is also done only in Kuchipudi. Though in contemporary times, this can be seen in other classical dances too.
Music and Instruments
Same like Bharatanatyam, Kuchipudi follows a Carnatic music system and has instruments like Mridangam, Flute, Veena, Sitar, Cymbals, etc. The instruments used in a repertoire may vary according to the bani or style of performance. The banis are Margi, which is more traditional and Desi which is a more modern style.
Costume and Ornaments
Previously, when the style was dominated by only male dancers, they would wear a dhoti which is known as Agnivastra. Women wear a saree which is similar to that of Bharatanatyam. There are pleats at the front of the dhoti between the knees which open when the dancer sits in half-sitting position. The ornaments are elaborate, covering the dancer from head to toe. Thalaisamam and Chandra-surya on head, rakhodi on the bun, jhumka and matal, small and big necklace, kamarbandh and bajubandh, bangles and ghungroo. The dancer paints the fingers and lines the feet in red hue, usually by alta.
Siddhendra Yogi is said to be the Father of Kuchipudi, as he pioneered this style. Famous male Kuchipudi dancers were Vedantam Shastri, Chinta Krishnamurthy and Tadepalli Perayya. In the contemporary times, dancer, actress Sandhya Raju is considered to the face of Kuchipudi. She learnt the dance from the legendary guru Dr. Vempati Chinna Satyam.
– Aditi Teredesai